Saturday, February 26, 2011

Turtles and Mansions

President's Day was a beautiful day in California.  The sun was washing over everything and everyone who wanted it - the temperature was perfect.  It was a glorious day to be outside.  Plus, Wisconsin was recovering from a snow and ice storm from the day before so this made the day even sweeter.

Greystone Mansion and Park has been on our list for a while.  Greystone was built by Edward Doheny, an oil tycoon, who discovered oil in Los Angeles in 1892.  Can you imagine?  Greg and I had just visited the Getty Museum a couple of days earlier and seeing Greystone made Greg remember one of Getty's memorable quotes about success: "The Formula for success: Rise early, work hard, strike oil.” Doheny definitely got Getty's memo because in 1926, Doheny had 3,135 extra dollars (see correction below) to build a little mansion for his son, Ned, Ned's wife, and their four children.  If you look up the equivalent for $3,000 by today's standards, it translates to $78,000 (see correction below).  Now someone is going to have to explain this to me because you could never build this place for $78,000 in today's world. Maybe the "good ole days" really were better.  In any event, the family finally moved in two years later but within four short months, 36-year-old Ned was found in the mansion in a murder suicide with his long time trusted family assistant, Hugh Plunkett.   Hmmm - seems like there's a story there.  Since then, it's been used for filming countless movies including another bizarre death story with Meryl Streep and Goldi Hawn (Death Becomes Her).  (Correction to this original post . . . Greystone's website has a mistake involving numbers, commas, and periods and the house actually cost $3,135,000 to build in 1926 which would be 78 million by today's standards according to my Brainiac husband.  Makes a lot more sense but that is still way more money than one person needs in my opinion!)

Mr. Doheny made the most of his money.  The mansion is spectacular but you could lived in a tent on the grounds and feel that you were inhabiting a little piece of heaven.  My "heart leaping moment" of the day came at the turtle pond.  The rectangular formal pond was lined with neatly trimmed box shrubs (my favorite) and the far end of the pond seemed to be calling for someone to just come and sit.  What was even more beautiful though were the amazing bronze turtle sculptures that were perfectly placed in the pond.  Greg and I stood and gazed at them in amazement at the detail . . . until the head of one of those turtles moved.  Aha, they weren't bronze, they were real turtles sunbathing on bronze lily pads.  Wow!  I wanted to be a turtle just for a moment.  What a life.

We watched the turtles sunbathing for the longest time.  They just sat there, looking like statues, with their little heads stretched as far out of their shells as they would reach - the tips of their noses pointing straight up toward the sun.  Every turtle in that pond, probably 15, were all sun seekers- all except one that kept swimming around on the bottom hiding from the sun under the floating moss.  He never came up for the sun.  The most he would do was stick his little nose up out of the water for a brief second to catch some air and then he would dive back into the dark waters.  I kept thinking about the turtles all week. Why weren't they all seeking the sun?

I've been dealing with the issue of "cutting" at school for several months with some middle school students.  It's hard to understand and bizarre to most adults - cutting yourself to deal with your feelings - but it's a phenomenon among young teenagers today.  This week was dominated by these students when most of them began cutting again - this time in the classroom.  If these students were turtles, they would be the ones swimming under the moss, hiding from the sun.  My job causes me to constantly be perplexed by the question of why some people seek the warmth of the sun and others lurk around in the darkness.  So the rest of my week was spent trying to get my swimmers to come up for more than air and to sit on a lily pad and bask in the sun.  Can't say I was very successful but maybe if I can figure out how to do this, it'll be like stiking oil.  I already work hard and get up early.  So when I stike that oil,  I think I'll build a $3,100 mansion with a turtle pond  - only sun-seeking turtles welcome!

Just for fun, here are some links to my favorite movies that were filmed at Greystone:
The Bodyguard
Death Becomes Her
Hanging Up
America's Sweethearts
The Holiday

And some oldies that I haven't seen but probably worth a look-see:
The Loved One with John Gielgud
The April Fools with Jack Lemmon and Catherine Deneuve
Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte with Bette Davis


  1. You texted me a picture of this the other day and I almost said "Death Becomes Her" but I was driving!!!! I am the champion at this game we're playing!!!! Where's my Starbucks card? Pay up, sucka!
    I love the turtle analogy. I wonder the same thing. Why do some sink while others swim yet they're the same creature with the same environment?

  2. Just to solve one're missing three zeros on the cost over 3 million to build, which would be 78 million today. Yikes...

  3. Ok - that's what I thought too Greg but here's the text from the Greystone page and look at the price......there's one comma and two periods in the price . . .I realize now that there are three numbers after the second period
    "In 1926, Doheny gifted his son Edward “Ned” Laurence Doheny Jr., and his daughter-in-law Lucy, with a 12.58 acres parcel of land. This land acquired by Doheny in 1914, was adjacent to his 429 acre Doheny Ranch. It is on these 12.58 acres that Greystone mansion was built, at a cost of $3,135.563. It became the largest undertaking of a family estate in the city of Beverly Hills."
    And it says in 1955, it sold for 1,500,000 so I'm really confused.......

  4. Money mystery solved and corrections made. Sorry for the confusion!